Daily Archives: November 5, 2012

Food Monday ~ Christmas Pudding revisited.

On Saturday I received a comment for an old Food Monday post. It was to do with Christmas puddings. Since it is the time of year for pudding making, I thought I would deal with it here.

Deirdre asked:

I made Delia Smiths recipe to the T for two years running and have been disappointed. I used plastic pudding bowls, suet and steamed for 8 hrs. And this year dumped them 🙁 I took great care for 8 hrs topping up the puds as they steamed. I was very careful with how I wrapped them and even let them ‘dry’ out before re wrapping. Still, they were wet, and had a greasy film. I bought 3 ceramic pudding bowls the other day and am looking at new recipes (searched for Avoca) but your recipe doesn’t ask to steep overnight which has me curious? Also I am hearing the ceramic pots can be baked in waterbath for less than 8 hrs. Any opinions? Thanks

I see that Deirdre consulted the Delia online community forum with her questions and most of the answers are similar to those that I would give.

To help on the way I will print the ingredients for my recipe, anyone wanting the full details of method etc, please follow my link at the top of the post.

First off, a pudding will never be as ‘dry’ as a cake mixture, a) because of the ingredients used and b) because it is steamed – cooked surrounded by water.

Most cake recipes have a balance of ‘wet’ and dry ingredients: A balance of fat and flour. In a pudding the balance is not the same. Take my list below:

8oz Butter
8oz Brown Sugar
2oz Plain Flour
¼ teaspoon each: Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Mixed Spice
8ozs Bread Crumbs
3 large Eggs
18oz Dried Fruit
1 large cooking Apple, chopped
2oz Nuts
3oz Candied Peel
2oz Cherries
1 grated carrot
Juice & Rind of 1 Orange
½ glass Spirits
Stout to moisten

If we break down my list above it looks as follows:

Dry Wet Fruit
2oz Plain Flour 8oz Butter 18oz Dried Fruit
8ozs Bread Crumbs 8oz Brown Sugar 1 cooking apple
3/4 teaspoon of spices 3 large Eggs 3oz Candied Peel
juice of 1 orange 2oz Cherries
½ glass Spirits 2oz Cherries
Stout to moisten

So dry ingredients amount to 10 ozs (not counting the spices). The wet ingredients certainly tip the balance on the scale.

In the recipe that Deirdre used, called for suet, mine does not, therefore my pudding will be lighter in texture and on the waistline! 😉 The type of sugar used can make a difference to the colour of the finished product too.

Now we come to the alcohol…..

Deirdre’s half full (glass) may not be the same as mine. We could be talking anything from a pint glass to a shot glass, not all recipes spell it out and I am at fault here too. Think of the pub measure of a glass of spirits = one and 1/2 fluid ounces is the standard measure of a glass. For the recipe above you use half of that.

The stout is a tailend addition to the mixture, don’t empty it all in at one go, think pastry making…. You add it a little at a time and when you think the mixture is soft and moist enough, then STOP, pour the remainder in a glass and drink it.

Years ago pudding bowls came with a good deep lip round the edge, this made it easier to fix a well greased greasproof  paper lid in place. With time and fashion the the edges of bowls changed and the lip all but disappeared.

I use pyrex bowls, nothing fancy. I cut two circles of greaseproof or baking paper (mind you there is little difference between them these days) for each bowl grease it with the butter, make a pleat along the centre and put it over the 2/3 to 3/4 filled bowl. Press it down all the way round and tie it tightly with a double knot, It is handy to have someone about to hold the first knot tight as you make the second one. Don’t forget to release their finger! 😉

The next step was to make a handle of the string from one side of the bowl to the other, this makes for easy lifting or moving in a steam filled vessel. The skirt of the paper was then turned up neatly all the way around.

Set a trivet in the base of the pan, or you can use an upturned plate or some scrunched up foil to set the pudding on. Pour boiling water into the pan until it comes about half way up the sides of the pudding bowl, keeping it well away from the paper. Place the lid on the pan and bring the water back to the boil, reduce the heat a little and continue boiling for the required time, checking every half hour to see that the water level is still ok. If need be add so more boiling water.

Making the ‘Pudding’ was always a family event when I was young. Granny came for the day and she would sing a song that included all the ingredients so that nothing was forgotten. Everyone had a chore, measuring, cleaning fruit, making the breadcrumbs by hand (usually my chore), and greasing the bowls. At the end a large wooden spoon was put in the bowl and every one had a stir and a wish.

In those days we had no fancy machinery to whiz the crumbs at lightening speed, it was a long slow process and hard on the knuckles. My mother used gas for cooking and the top of the cooker had four rings, One was needed to keep the kettle boiling and the others were requisitioned for steaming the puddings. Somehow mammy always had a small bowl of the mixture besides the two the recipe called for. We soon learned to be around the kitchen when that one came off the cooker… it was the taster and all the helpers were rewarded with a spoonful of the promise ahead on Christmas day.

Just a thought… A few weeks ago I re-listed all the soup recipes with links and the comments seemed favourable. Would you like me to do that with some Christmas recipes from my archives? If so savoury or sweet, let me know with a comment please.